UK officials reportedly told Huawei its 5G ban could be revisited if Trump loses the 2020 election

US President Donald Trump. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
  • On July 14, the UK announced that from next year it will be illegal for telecoms operators to buy 5G equipment from Huawei. Operators must remove all existing Huawei 5G kit by 2027.
  • The Observer reports that, in the days before the announcement, government officials briefed Huawei that the motivations behind the decision were partly geopolitical. The Trump administration was exerting pressure on the UK, they reportedly said.
  • They also hinted the ban could be revisited if Trump loses the 2020 election and pressure from the US abates.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK is bracing Huawei for a potential reversal of its 5G equipment ban should Donald Trump lose November’s presidential election, according to a report by The Observer newspaper.

On July 14, the UK government announced it would next year ban telecoms companies from buying Huawei 5G equipment, and mandate they remove all existing Huawei 5G kit by 2027. Culture minister Oliver Dowden said the UK ban was designed to be “irreversible.” This followed a May announcement from the US government that it would stop US companies from selling semiconductors to Huawei.

According to the Observer report, UK officials told Huawei that the decision was partially driven by pressure from the US. They suggested the ban could be revisited if Donald Trump fails to win the 2020 presidential election, and US pressure abates.

The Observer did not give any detail about its sources, and Huawei did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

The US claims Huawei acts as a proxy for the Chinese government to spy, and has been vocally lobbying allied countries, including the UK, to ban Huawei’s 5G equipment since early 2019.

After the latest US sanctions, related to semiconductors, culture minister Olivia Dowden said the UK “can no longer guarantee the safety” of Huawei’s kit. The UK’s announcement constituted a U-turn – in January, the UK announced that it would allow Huawei to play a limited role in building out the country’s 5G network, despite US pressure.

In a statement issued after the announcement of the ban on July 14, a Huawei spokesperson told Business Insider: “Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security.”

“We will conduct a detailed review of what today’s announcement means for our business here and will work with the UK government to explain how we can continue to contribute to a better connected Britain,” the spokesperson added. Less than a week after the 5G decision was announced, Huawei revealed it will build three retail “experience” stores in the UK.